by John A. Heropoulos
One of the Orthodox Church’s greatest strengths is the pastoral care used to nurture the faithful. The authority to offer spiritual care is vested in the bishop and extended to the local community through the parish priest; the spiritual father of a particular flock. Through the sacrament of Holy Confession, pastoral counseling, and living among his people, the local parish priest nurtures the flock entrusted to his care by his bishop.
The philosophical idea that grounds pastoral care are the principles of Oikonomia and Akriveia.
Based on these principles, it is the spiritual father’s pastoral responsibility to apply the canons, disciplines, and liturgical life of the Church for the spiritual good of his flock. The spiritual father may feel that, after speaking with an individual who is seeking guidance, that Akriveia, such as a period of time for repentance and abstaining from Holy Communion, is the proper “medicine” to help the person in need of spiritual care. At other moments, and possibly for the exact same issue, the spiritual father may choose Oikonomia, such as the encouraging of fasting and the frequent receiving of Holy Communion as the best “medicine.” Continue reading
by Will Cohen
In a 2015 address at the University of Munich, Metropolitan John Zizioulas observed that “[t]he agenda of Theology is set by history.” By “history” he meant the concerns and questions particular to a given age, as he underscores in adding, “This was known to the Fathers of the Church who were in constant dialogue with their time.”
If the Church’s theology must accept the questions of history in order to be vital and serve humanity, the same is not true of the conclusions history may hurriedly reach. Christians have sometimes not readily enough accepted history’s questions and sometimes too readily accepted its answers. Of relevance to this dynamic is how Church teaching is understood—specifically, in relation to the place of dialogue in the Church.
When in the flow of history an issue erupts, becoming a real question for human beings, the fact that there is already Church teaching on it—if that is the case—can be taken to mean it is unnecessary and even impermissible for Christians to take it seriously as a question. Instead of rediscovering and deepening the teaching through the question, those who appeal to the teaching in order to beat the question back cannot really speak to the question the present age has posed, because they have not entered into it in a sufficiently real and searching way. Continue Reading…
by Katherine Kelaidis | ελληνικά | ру́сский
Last August, the first real friend I ever made at church took his own life. Jonathan (not his real name) was a year ahead of me at Cal where we met my freshman year. He was received into the Orthodox Church during the weekly liturgy our Orthodox Christian Fellowship chapter held in a chapel located in a literal upper room. Jonathan and I quickly became friends. We were both sarcastic Classics majors with a penchant for drag queens and Baroque music. We bonded in the easy way that freaks who have found their tribe so often do.
This was despite the fact that by most appearances we were very different people. I was a Greek girl raised in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado by upper-middle-class parents, cherished and doted on in a world where I was free to worry about my grades and whether that boy in Physics liked me. Jonathan was an orphan raised in poverty in California’s Central Valley. He was biracial and gay in a place that was segregated and straight. If my life was defined and frequently limited by the ties that bind me, his life was about searching for a place where he could be entirely himself, loved without condition or expectation.
That search brought him to the Orthodox Church. And we failed him. Continue Reading…